Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author notes

I had planned to update on Saturday, January 1, but this chapter has been ready, and I'm dying to post it and get the story moving ahead. Also, my beta, Dooba, really wanted me to post this, so this is for her and for everyone. Happy New Year! Again, if you have questions, please ask me, and I'll answer what I can, as long as it doesn't give away future plot elements. My general plan is to try to update once a week. I work full time, actually over full time, so my only writing time is on weekends. I'm keeping a few chapters ahead, in hopes I can keep to a regular schedule, so we don't have to wait too long between updates.

As ever, thanks to my incredible beta, Dooba, and my awesome pre Reader, d_inspiration. You ladies blow me away with your support and encouragement!

Chapter Two

Bella awoke the next morning to the sound of the rain pattering on the tree outside her window. Though she had lived in Arizona for many years, she found the sound of the rain soothing. She liked the way the air smelled during and after the rain. And the sound had comforted her in her sleep. She stretched, thinking about the day ahead, feeling anxious about all that needed to happen to prepare her for starting school the next week. She reached to the nightstand, lightly touching her braille watch. It was 7, and she thought she might as well get up and start the day.

After showering and dressing, she went downstairs to find Charlie making breakfast.

"Morning, Bells," Charlie said, "how'd you sleep?"

"Good Dad. No problems. Want me to finish breakfast?"

"No, that's ok, honey," Charlie laid his hand lightly on her shoulder as he passed her, "I figured we could stop at the grocery store today among our other errands. I didn't get a lot before you arrived. I thought maybe you'd want to go with me."

"Sure, Dad," Bella reached into a cupboard for a mug and poured herself a cup of coffee, "I'll start doing the dinner cooking after today, ok, Dad?"

"You know I don't expect you to do that, Bella," Charlie answered.

"I know, but I was planning to do it. I'll be home anyway. Are the marks still on the oven dial?"

"Nothing's changed around here," Charlie laughed. "The dots are still there, and on the washer, and on the dishwasher."

They laughed together then fell into companionable silence, as they each ate their breakfast.

"Our appointment at the school is at 11:30," Charlie said as he finished breakfast. "I figured that would give us time for you to finish settling in. What do you think?"

"Sure, Dad," Bella said, "I need to finish unpacking and I've still got to set up the computer and email Mom. I was too tired last night. Oh, by the way, has that strip mall down the road changed much?"

"No, it's pretty much the same," Charlie replied, "Oh, there's a new starbucks there, of course, the grocery store, a dry cleaners, nail shop, a pizza place, the typical things. Do you want to walk down there later and refresh your memory on where everything is?"

"Yes, that's what I was thinking," Bella said, "I want to be able to go down there and get little things from the store, grab a coffee or whatever."

"Ok, honey. Either this afternoon, or tomorrow, we'll walk down there."

"Thanks Dad." She stood up, going over to Charlie and giving him a quick kiss on the top of his head. Then she took her dishes to the sink, washed them quickly then headed up the stairs to her room.

Once in her room again, Bella set about getting her computer organized. As it booted up, she plugged in the speakers, connected the printer and hooked up the external drive. When prompted by the screen reader, she logged in and waited for the system to finish booting. She wrote a quick email to her mom, letting her know she'd arrived, and then she typed up a quick grocery list.

She finished her unpacking then, hanging her clothes in the closet, putting the rest of her toiletries in the bathroom. She laid her MP3 player on the nightstand, with the audio book Pride and Prejudice queued up and ready for listening. It was one of her favorite books of all time, and though she'd probably read it at least a dozen times, she felt the need for it again, as she started her new life. Pride and Prejudice was one of what Bella thought of as her comfort books, the things she read time and again, to relax or just because she loved it. When the unpacking was complete she returned to the computer to read her mom's email response.

After Bella disappeared upstairs, Charlie finished cleaning the kitchen, then sat down to read the paper. He was surprised when the phone rang, as few people called him at home.

"Hi Charlie, this is Carlisle Cullen," said the caller, "do you have a minute to speak with me?"

Charlie was surprised. He liked and respected Dr. Cullen very much, but they weren't normally on phone calling terms.

"What can I do for you?"

"Well, my daughter Alice heard about your daughter coming and she wanted to know if there's any way she can help. Perhaps, be a volunteer to meet Bella the first day, show her how to find her classes, do reading, things like that," Carlisle explained. "I know you said Bella is very much able to take care of herself, but Alice was thinking she might like someone to help in the beginning. You know, just till she gets settled and knows her way around and meets other classmates."

"That's a very kind offer, Carlisle," Charlie hesitated, "Bella and I are going to the high school this morning to get her signed up for classes. Perhaps Alice could meet us, and the two girls can talk. It's really up to Isabella. I'm thinking it might help her feel more at ease if she has a friend, but I also don't want to imply that she isn't capable of handling it on her own. But she's shy—I'll talk to her. Why don't you check with Alice, to see if she would like to meet us in the office? Our appointment is at 11:30. Isn't that around lunch time?"

Carlisle agreed to call Alice, and if she was willing—and Bella didn't object—he'd have her meet the Swans. Charlie made his way up the stairs to tell Bella about the call. The Cullen kids were a nice bunch, he thought. None of them ever caused any trouble. They'd be good people for Bella to know. He tapped lightly on Bella's door, entering when she told him to come in.

Bella sat at her desk, laptop open before her, fingers flying over the keyboard. The synthesized speech of the screen reading program she used still sounded like gibberish to Charlie. Bella looked up, smiling.

"Mom says hi," she told him. "Is it time to go?"

"About 30 more minutes. I wanted to tell you about a call I had from Dr. Cullen."

Charlie proceeded to explain about Alice.

"Dad, I don't know," Bella hesitated, "do you know anything about her? I don't want someone to offer to help me out of pity or so it makes her look good by helping the poor blind girl."

"I don't know Alice personally," Charlie said, "but the Cullens are a unique and interesting family. Carlisle and Esme are young, 30's maybe, but they've adopted five kids. A couple of them are actually Esme Cullen's niece and nephew. Anyway, when they first arrived in town last year, I was skeptical. I mean, all those teenagers in one family, all around the same age. But they are quiet, well-behaved kids. They never get into trouble. They are a very close-knit family, going on family vacations, camping trips, things like that. I don't think any of the Cullen kids would be the type of person you fear. Why not meet Alice and decide for yourself? You and I will do orientation to the school today, but won't it be nice to have someone there too, someone you'll know when you start on Monday? Also, won't you be needing readers?"

Bella was silent, thinking.

"You're right, Dad. I guess it doesn't hurt to meet her. As for readers, once my stuff gets here from Phoenix, I'll have my scanner, so I may not need readers after the first couple weeks or so. I guess I will need some help with reading in the beginning."

"That sounds good, Bells. Let's leave in about 20 minutes. You can meet Alice and see what you think then."

As they drove toward the school, Bella began to feel very nervous. She knew Forks High could not be a very big school, so she could probably learn to get around easily enough. What about getting to and from school? She really didn't want to have to ride in Charlie's cruiser everyday, but there was no bus system in Forks. Could she carpool with a classmate?

Everything swirled together in her mind, her stomach knotting with anxiety. She always felt overwhelming shyness in a new environment, and she could already feel her internal desire to fold in on herself, make herself small so she couldn't be seen. Would she make friends here? What about this Alice Cullen? She sighed, fiddled nervously with her purse strap and sat straighter, pulling herself together.

Carlisle had made all the arrangements, and Alice could hardly wait for Bella to arrive for her appointment. If this worked out, Alice would try to change some of her classes, maybe getting Bella in class with someone from the family for each period. She already knew that the popular girls, like Jessica Stanley, were eager for the goods on the new girl, excited to have new gossip to spread. She felt protective of Bella, not because she was blind, but because she was new to the school, and the vultures were circling.

Knowing that Bella was Edward's mate caused Alice to feel even more protective of her. She wanted to ensure that everything would go well for Bella, and she knew she was the one who could make that happen. Alice had spent time on the internet the evening before, looking up facts on blindness, trying to learn the truths and not the myths. She didn't want to overwhelm Bella or to make her feel as if Alice pitied her. She researched proper guiding techniques, availability of text books, wanting to understand the ways Bella would accomplish the everyday aspects of life.

She had hardly been able to contain her enthusiasm that morning, as they all drove to school in Edward's car.

"What is going on with you lately, Alice?" Edward grumbled. "You act like you're about to receive the greatest gift in the world. And you're still quoting things in Latin and Greek in your mind."

Emmett laughed.

"Yeah, pixie," he said, "is there some new outfit you just can't wait to buy? You're driving Edward crazy."

Emmett winked and strolled off with Rose.

Alice looked at Edward for a moment.

"Edward, I can't tell you yet. I'm sorry. But something very important is about to happen. Something that will affect all of us, particularly you. But it's good, and I don't want to ruin the surprise. You need to experience it, discover what it is yourself."

She looked very serious as she spoke, not bouncing anymore.

"Alice, don't you think if it affects us all, and me in particular, perhaps you should impart this news to us?"

"Nope," Alice was laughing again, "you'll have to wait and see my brother."

She linked arms with Jasper and walked away, smiling, still quoting Shakespeare in her head.

Edward ran his hands through his hair and walked toward his first class. He knew Alice was up to something, but he hadn't been able to get a clue as to what it was. She had not let down her guard for the past couple days. Carlisle had seemed to be blocking him too, so he guessed that Carlisle must be in on the secret. What could be coming?

The only thing new on the horizon was the arrival of Chief Charlie Swan's daughter, but Edward didn't believe Isabella swan could be the surprise about which Alice was so excited. As a rule, they tried not to interact too closely with the humans in their world. Most humans stayed away, of course, but when there were those who didn't seem to have the proper danger filter, the family kept their distance. It was not safe for any of them, vampires or humans, to get involved with each other.

Edward sat in his first class, idly listening to the minds around him. One of his responsibilities for the family was to use his mind reading ability to ensure that none of the humans were beginning to guess the truth about the very unusual Cullen family. Today, most of the buzz was about Isabella Swan. Mike Newton was wondering how she would look and thinking about how he'd ask her out. He was thinking about how he could do things for her, helping her, becoming indispensible to her, if she was pretty of course.

Jessica was wondering if it would do her reputation good or ill to befriend the new girl. Would it make her look good to her group of friends should she befriend Isabella? Or would it lower her standing to be hanging out with a blind girl?

Lauren was true to form, thinking that she'd bet Isabella used her condition to get sympathy, get attention from the guys or might even make it out to be worse than it was. Edward shuddered mentally. Lauren's thoughts were never a pleasant place to be.

Angela Weber's thoughts alone were kind. She wondered if the new girl would be someone with whom she could become friends, wondered if there was any way to help Isabella adjust to the new school. She was thinking about inviting Isabella over to her home. Edward smiled, thinking what a kind person Angela was. She was one of few people whose thoughts didn't make him wish he could give his brain a good hot shower.

Briefly, he wondered about Isabella Swan. How dull and banal would her thoughts be? He did not think of her as the human boys did, a sort of fresh meat thought process that sickened him. Edward secretly longed to find his mate. Living in a house with three mated vampire couples could get lonely at times. He didn't often speak of this aloud, as he knew Emmett would tease him mercilessly, and Esme would grieve, thinking he had been changed too young.

Inside however, Edward hoped that someday, he might meet someone, but he knew that someone would be a vampire. A human girl could never be his mate. So he wondered about Isabella Swan in the sense of how her presence might change the dynamics at school, not thinking for one moment that she could mean anything special to his life.

When Charlie and Bella arrived at the school, the lunch bell had not yet rung, so the halls were still quiet. Bella was grateful, as she walked beside Charlie to the office. She didn't want to be swamped by the mob of students yet.

"Here's the office," Charlie said, stopping at a door. "Once you walk through the door, the secretary's desk is straight ahead."

"Ok, Dad, let's do it." She took a deep breath, nodded and smiled at her dad and walked briskly through the door he held open.

They walked into the office. Bella could smell paper and books. She heard the clicking of a keyboard and walked toward the sound.

"Hello, Chief. Hello dear, you must be Isabella," Bella heard a woman say. "Welcome to Forks High."

"Hello, Mrs. Cope," Charlie said, 'Yes, this is my daughter, Isabella. I believe principal Green is expecting us."

"Yes indeed. Let me tell him you're here."

She moved away and Charlie led Bella to a nearby seat. They had only just sat down, when a door opened and the principal came toward them.

"Hello, Charlie. Hello Miss Swan," he strode to them, shaking hands with Charlie, then offering his hand to Bella, "Welcome to Forks, Miss Swan. I'm principal Green. Would you like to come this way to my office?"

"Ok, Miss Swan," Mr. Green began once they were settled in his office. "We've gotten your transcripts from Phoenix, and we've got a schedule ready for you. I wanted to meet with you to see in what other ways we can accommodate your needs."

"Well, I think the best thing would be if I could find some classmates who can read to me, for whatever classes might not have available accessible text books. I also have a scanner on its way, so I'll be able to scan books once that arrives. I'll also need orientation to the school. Oh, and a padlock for my locker, since I can't do the combination locks. I'll do my assignments on my computer and print them out to hand in. I'll need tests either to be read to me by the teachers or given to me in an electronic format, so I can do them on my computer."

"I'm going to help Bella with some orientation to her classes today," Charlie added, "but also Dr. Cullen said his daughter Alice would like to volunteer for reading and more orientation if needed."

"Ah yes, Miss Cullen did come to the office this morning to offer her services," Mr. Green said. "She should be here in a few minutes. She wanted to introduce herself to Isabella and to talk with her, to see if this is what she wants."

Bella wanted to say, hey there, I'm right here. Talk to me, not to my dad. But she stayed quiet. There would be time enough to deal with that kind of thing.

Just then someone tapped at the door. Mr. Green called to them to enter.

"Hi everyone!" It was a girl's voice, sounding like wind chimes to Bella, the most beautiful voice she had ever heard. Could this be Alice Cullen? Just hearing her voice caused Bella to think she would like her.

"Hello, Miss Cullen," the principal said. "Come in and shut the door. This is Chief swan and his daughter Isabella."

Alice danced over to the Swans, hardly able to contain her excitement at finally being face-to-face with Bella.

"Hey Chief," she practically sang the words, "it's so nice to meet you."

"Just call me Charlie," he said.

Alice smiled at him, filling Charlie with an odd sense of warmth at the utter joy in her smile. She turned to Bella and took her hand.

"Hey Isabella, I'm Alice."

"Hi Alice," Bella couldn't help smiling, "call me Bella."

"Bella," Alice repeated. "It suits you. Not as formal as Isabella. Anyway, Bella, I'm so glad you're here! I just know we're going to be the best of friends."

Bella couldn't help smiling. Somehow, she knew Alice was right; they would be friends. Bella could already tell there wasn't a bit of condescension in Alice. She felt herself warming to this girl, and some of her anxiety seemed to melt away.

"So, Bella," Alice continued, "I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to volunteer to help you learn your way around the school, do reading for you, or whatever you need. I don't want to overwhelm you, or make you think I'm trying to help you more than you need. It's just that I remember what it's like to be new here, among all the kids who've known each other for years. My family moved here last year, and we never really did fit in very well. You know, with being the new kids on the block."

Alice laughed to herself, knowing exactly why she and her siblings didn't fit in. But she couldn't tell that story to Bella, not yet anyway.

"So, what do you think?" she asked.

"I think it would be nice, Alice," Bella answered quietly, "and it will be nice to know someone here when I start on Monday."

"Yay!" Alice exclaimed, "I was hoping you'd agree. Let's exchange phone numbers, so we can make plans for Monday. I was thinking I could meet you out front when you arrive. You may even have some classes with my brothers and sister. Do you have your schedule? Do you know what you're planning to wear for the first day? Do you want to go shopping this weekend?"

Alice seemed to say this all in one breath. Bella found herself wanting to say, 'breathe, Alice!' She laughed.

"Um, I'm not sure if I can remember all of that," she said, "but, yes, let's talk this weekend. Yes, I do have my schedule. No, I'm not sure what I want to wear on Monday. And I don't know about going shopping. I don't need anything."

"I just thought it would be a nice way for you and I to get to know each other a little before you start school," Alice's enthusiasm seemed to deflate a bit, "but if you don't want to shop—"

"Ok, ok, Alice. Let's shop this weekend," Bella gave in. She couldn't stand the sad sound in Alice's voice.

Alice clapped her hands and bounced in her seat.

"Yay! Thank you Bella! We can just run over to Port Angeles for a little while on Saturday. We'll have so much fun! You won't be sorry, Bella."

Alice left soon after, promising to call Bella the next day to finalize the weekend plans. Charlie and Bella finished their meeting with the principal and went out to look around the school and give Bella some orientation. They started at the front of the school, Charlie showing Bella where each class was located and how to get from one to the other. They found her locker, picked up textbooks from the library and made their way back out to the cruiser.

"Want to go get some lunch at the diner?" Charlie asked as they drove away from the school.

"Yeah, that sounds good, Dad. I'm starved."

They drove silently toward the diner, while Bella was thinking of all that had happened at the school, wondering about Alice Cullen. She didn't mind her father's quiet nature, as it fitted so perfectly with hers. She and Charlie were so much alike.

As they walked into the diner, the smells of burgers and fries surrounded her. Bella remembered how this place smelled, and it was the same. She thought about smell, and how a scent could bring back moments and memories so strongly. These smells reminded her of so many meals eaten here with Charlie. She squeezed his arm a little tighter as they walked to a table. The table and booth seats felt all the same. It was a nice feeling with so many other things changing, that some things were ever the same.

After they were seated Charlie went over the menu with Bella. She was not surprised that there was no Braille menu. Maybe, she should ask about creating one for them, but she didn't expect to be eating there often.

The waitress set two glasses of water down and turned to Charlie.

"Hi Charlie," she said in an overly sweet tone, "who's this lovely lady with you? Is this your daughter?"

"Yes, this is my daughter, Bella," Charlie introduced her, "Bella, this is Louise. She moved here a few years ago, which is why you haven't met her before."

"Hi sweetie," Louise said.

Bella cringed at the tone and the endearment.

"It's so nice that you've come to live here with your Dad," Louise continued, "Charlie has been talking of nothing else. The whole town has been buzzing with talk of Charlie's poor little blind daughter, and when I saw you come in with your Dad, holding your stick, I just knew it had to be you."

"Cane," Bella muttered. "White cane, not stick."

"Ready to order, Chief?" Louise asked, turning back to Charlie, ignoring Bella's comment.

"Sure," Charlie replied, "I'll have the fish and chips with a coke."

"And what will she have?" the waitress asked.

"I don't know," he answered sharply, "you'd better ask her."

"I will have the club sandwich with a coke," Bella snapped.

When the waitress left, Bella sighed. Charlie reached out, lightly squeezing her hand briefly.

"I know, Bells," he said, "I know it gets old and frustrating having to train people all the time. You've had to do so much of that."

"It's ok, Dad, Bella smiled at him, "Let's just enjoy our lunch now."

Over lunch, Charlie asked Bella how she felt about the meeting and Alice Cullen.

"I guess it all went well," Bella said, "Mr. Green wasn't too bad, except that he tended to talk to you instead of me."

"I know, honey. Hopefully you can teach him better."

Bella laughed.

'Oh Dad, you know I will." She laughed again, then continued, "I think I'm really going to like Alice. There's just something about her that draws me to her. I have a feeling that we will become close friends, just like she said."

"She's something else," Charlie agreed, "but she's sincere, I could tell that. Oh, Bells, you should have seen her face, when she thought you didn't want to go shopping with her! She had the biggest puppy-dog eyes I've ever seen. She must get anything she wants from her family when she gives them that look. It'll be funny to see how she handles it when that look doesn't work on you."

"Ah, but she's got the puppy-dog voice to match the look, Dad," Bella said, "I think it's going to be hard to resist Alice, when she wants something! But I also think she'll be a true friend."

They finished their lunch in companionable silence.

"Ready to head to the store?" Charlie asked as he paid the bill.

"Sure, let's go. I've got to feed you something healthier than nice greasy burgers."

They laughed together as they left the diner and walked out to the cruiser.

Please, please review. Reviews are quite addictive!

Fic recs

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The Mystery of You, by d_insppiration

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Remember to replace the word dot with the correct symbol. Enjoy!